Ryan Krienke, St. Pius Parish, Wauwatosa


Ryan Krienke has been the Principal of Prince of Peace Elementary School since July 2017. He’s been an active member of the Milwaukee Catholic community all his life and attends St. Pius Parish in Wauwatosa with his wife, Bethany Neubauer, and their two children, Kiegan and Bridgett. 


  • He grew up in Delafield and attended St. Charles Parish in Hartland with his family, where his parents are still parishioners today. 
  • Krienke graduated from Valparaiso University in 2003 with a bachelor of arts in history and education. 
  • He earned his master’s degree from Marquette University in 2011. 





A learning disability prevented you from attending parish schools when you were younger; how do you bring that experience to your job leading Seton Catholic Schools?

Now that I’m a principal working in Milwaukee, where there are a lot of students coming in below grade level in reading and other subjects, I try to use my experience to relate to them and share some of the strategies I used and still use to overcome the difficulties that accompany ADHD, things like having something in their hands to fiddle with during tests, or ways to stay calm even if they’re in trouble. I try to be mindful and remind our teachers to be mindful and that every student, regardless of their special needs, needs different things to be their very best. My Catholic faith, coupled with my experience of not being able to go to a Catholic school because of my learning disability, has been a huge driving force behind the work I’m doing.


What is one of your biggest personal missions for Seton Catholic Schools? 

I want to lead a school that doesn’t punish a student before trying to help them solve their problems. Traditionally, things like not finishing a test on time or being overwhelmed by noise, those weren’t things that were considered. All of the students had to learn the same way or settle into labels that sometimes hung like a shadow over them for the rest of their lives. I really try to make our school a place where every student feels comfortable and cared for, because it’s in that safety that they can be their best selves and learn to love the act of learning.


Was there a specific time when you were able to use your learning disability to help a student that showed you how much your speaking out means? 

There was a 4-year-old at one of my old schools whose mom was just heartbroken because she couldn’t see how he was going to get through school because there were so many challenges. I shared with her that when I was in eighth grade, one of my teachers told my mom that she would just have to accept the fact that I wasn’t meant to go to college. My mom was heartbroken by that, and when I shared it with the mom of that student, she was so grateful. I think that her seeing what was possible was really comforting and took some of the despair she felt away. It’s not me; it’s all God, and I think it’s just so important for kids and parents to know that a learning disability diagnosis isn’t fatal. It can help give you the tools to propel you forward.


Why is Catholic education so important to you? 

When I graduated from college, I thought I was going to be a high school history teacher at a public school and coach basketball. The people that I looked up to and who inspired me to be a teacher were those people. Then I got a job at Corpus Christi School. It was a high poverty school and where I was really first faced with the reality that not everyone had the same upbringing that I did. It was a time of personal growth in my own faith, and those two things coupled together really helped me look at God and the Church in a way that I hadn’t since I’d been confirmed. It pushed me to go to Mass and then I got really passionate about using my faith to make a positive change in places that need it most.


How do you overcome the unique challenges of being a principal in an urban school? 

I was lucky enough to grow up in a home with two parents who both had good jobs. I was raised in a loving Catholic environment, and even with my learning disability and discouragement from teachers, it was always expected that I would go to college. I was held to a high standard. A lot of these kids come from a very different environment. It’s a constant conversation that all of us at Seton have; we try to create a culture where everyone is brought in to be a success. Kids are smart; they know the subtleties of how adults talk, so we have to protect them and make sure our messages to them are coming across in a positive way.


How is social justice important to you and your wife? 

Bethany was in the Peace Corps right after college and she carried that mentality into our marriage and the lives of our children. It’s become something that, because of her, is very important to me, and something that we hope our girls will see as very important. Last year, Bethany organized a coat drive in our neighborhood to help out families that didn’t have warm coats. It was an inspiring thing for us to see our community come together for one another. We also volunteer for an organization called TosaCares and we’ve gone on a regular basis to put together food boxes for local families. We try to have a constant conversation in our house about how we can help our community and make a difference.